Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Rail DANGER

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue

Guard rails erected years ago in sections of Half-Way Tree and other parts of the Corporate Area by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation and the National Works Agency (NWA) - to protect pedestrians from reckless drivers - are now posing grave danger to the very persons they were designed to protect.

Speeding motorists and undisciplined bus drivers, who climb the sidewalks with their vehicles to get ahead of the competition, have badly damaged some of the rails at different junctures, leaving them a threat to pedestrians, especially the visually impaired.

Vandals have also seized the opportunity to mangle some of the rails, creating an opening to exit the Mandela Park and on to the busy Constant Spring Road, instead of using the pedestrian crossing a few feet away at the clock.

Other rails are loose from the ground, and need just some screws to hold them intact.

Now, pedestrians are forced to walk on the road in some instances, as the damaged rails have prevented them from using the sidewalks.

Former mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, last week argued that the damaged rails are now the biggest danger to pedestrians in heavily trafficked areas.

"The rails in Manor Park were constructed when I was mayor. They were done for two main reasons. One, to protect the pedestrians by giving them designated areas to walk; and two, to prevent the undisciplined minibus, taxi and other drivers from parking on the road and riding the soft shoulders to park, or to pick up passengers," McKenzie told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Now, they are broken down. It's gone back to the free-for-all. The pedestrians are back in danger, and just like Half-Way Tree, all the rails required before they were destroyed was maintenance," declared McKenzie.

"The whole a dem mash dung. The buses are now parked on the soft shoulder in Manor Park. Actually, the whole road infrastructure is gone to the dogs," added McKenzie.

One pedestrian, Karl Mullings, told The Sunday Gleaner that two weeks before Christmas, the rails in Half-Way Tree, near the Mandela Park, saved him from a speeding motor car heading along Constant Spring Road.

"It was after one in the morning and I was heading home from a party. I was using the pedestrian crossing right at Tastee, and this bredda was coming bird speed down Constant Spring Road. Is when I was halfway across the pedestrian crossing that I realise he was not stopping although I have the right away. Is in the rails him end up," said Mullings.

"Although it mash down, it save me from a sure death. And de bredda just come out, look pon de damage to him souped-up Levin, cuss some bad word and fly down Half-Way Tree Road same way," stated Mullings.

Creating order

According to Deputy Superintendent Gary McKenzie of the Police Traffic Division, the cops were part of the discussions which led to the construction of the rails and were happy they were erected.

"They are very important to creating order, in terms of how pedestrians used the roads," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Before they were constructed, pedestrians crossed the roads at different places, and some were being hit, walking in front and behind large vehicles. When the rails were put in place, we found that order was created as more pedestrians were using the sidewalks and designated pedestrian crossings."

He said fewer pedestrians were less prone to accidents, and the police viewed that as part of the success of the programme.

"The police partner with entities such as the NWA and other road-safety stakeholders to see to it that not only pedestrian but all road users are able to use the road safely. To the extent that they are in need of repairs, it would be of concern to us. And we will certainly have discussion with the NWA to see how best to address the issue for repair," said McKenzie.

He said he would also be speaking with the National Road Safety Council on the matter, given the high numbers of accidents and pedestrian deaths in 2014.

Efforts to get a comment from the NWA were unsuccessful last week.